Popular Australian television show Hey Hey It’s Saturday, which ran from 1971 to 1999, has been shrouded in controversy this week, with its former host Daryl Somers issuing an apology amid complaints about the show’s “offensive” racist jokes and slurs.
On Monday, singer Kamahl spoke out about being the butt of insensitive, race-themed jokes during his time on the popular Aussie sketch show, saying he was often left “humiliated” during his appearances. The 86-year-old revealed, however, that he didn’t have any grievances with Somers, who he said neither encouraged the behaviour nor stopped it.
Somers, 69, broke his silence on Wednesday and provided radio station 3AW with a statement of apology, saying he “deeply regrets any hurt felt” by Kamahl and that he “never set out to offend anybody”.
“I want to make it very clear that I – and all members of the Hey Hey team – do not condone racism in any form,” he said. “I have always considered Kamahl a friend and supporter of the show, so I deeply regret any hurt felt by him as a result of anything that took place on the programme in the past.”
— 3AW Melbourne (@3AW693) March 30, 2021
The apology comes after Somers told The Daily Telegraph last week that there was no way a TV program today would be able to “get away” with the stuff they did on the show. Somers reiterated this sentiment in his apology statement, saying that he appreciates that “in the context of modern society, some material from the past is plainly inappropriate”.
Since the original comments by Somers, footage from the show has been circulating online, including a shocking episode in which Kamahl was hit in the face with white powder and then told, “You’re a real white man.” Kamahl spoke about the incident on Studio 10 on Tuesday, saying it “hurt” to be humiliated on live national television.
“They wouldn’t hit John Farnham or Jimmy Barnes in the face with a powder puff,” he said.
To celebrate Daryl Somers’ hot take on cancel culture yesterday here’s all the edits I’ve done from the Hey Hey archives.
Here’s the legend Kamahl being bullied by the Hey Hey gang pic.twitter.com/Aa3WMeRw54
— John Patterson (@johnpatterson) March 22, 2021
The Herald Sun reported that John Blackman, who was involved in the show’s white powder incident, took to Facebook to question the timing of Kamahl’s complaints earlier this week.
“Goodness me, Kamahl, 37 years [on] and you’re still ‘humiliated’,” he wrote. “You knew where my booth was. If you felt so aggrieved by my ‘quip’ you should have marched up to it, had a quiet word in my ear, and I would have desisted from making any further ‘racist’ remarks forever.
“Keep in mind, we were all performing in less-enlightened (unintended pun) times back in the day and, when I look back over my career on HHIS (via YouTube), I sometimes cringe at what we got away with — but none of it with any intended malice.”
Somers’ statement to 3AW said he “wholeheartedly” supports diversity in the entertainment industry and added that he was “committed to continuous learning and development”.
“Hey Hey It’s Saturday never set out to offend anybody but always strived to provide family entertainment,” he wrote. “I am proud of the fact that it was the longest-running comedy/variety programme on Australian television, lasting for 30 years.”
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